Solar photovoltaic (PV) building technology is evolving fast as scientists seek solutions that offer greater aesthetic appeal, function and flexibility. The latest innovation is a “matrix shingle” modular solar system for façades that is the result of a collaboration between the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) and M10 Industries AG. The "Shirkan" project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
In the novel PV system, the compact solar cell units are applied to the building offset from each other like bricks. The key to the technology is the system that interconnects the shingle units: The solar cell strips (which are lead-free) are connected to strings with electrically-conductive adhesives and arranged to overlap like shingles, which increases the flow of the electrical current across the façade.
Another advantage of the matrix cladding is that the current can flow around shaded areas which means twice the power compared to conventional interconnected PV modules. Offsetting also ensures the entire surface can be covered to achieve a homogenous appearance. When used in combination with a MorphoColor coating, the modules can even "disappear" into walls or create architectural motifs in a variety of colours.
The manufacturing partner M10 has developed an automated process for producing solar matrix shingles on an industrial scale: "The matrix approach has enabled us to implement a completely new machine concept, our system thus has a much higher throughput than classic shingle stringers and is thus in no way inferior to conventional stringers in terms of megawatt output," explains Phillipp Zahn, board member of M10 Industries AG, in an article in . The new Matrix Stringer can process 12,000 shingle cells per hour.